Friday, 17 March 2006

Topless test for tolerant Holland

"Let peaceful people pass freely," is in sum the libertarian position on immigration and border controls.

 And after the murder of Theo van Gogh by Islamofascists and other similar and related incidents, the Dutch position is now to be one of "let tolerant people pass freely."

In a measure just announced, potential Dutch immigrants are required to purchase and view a video tape that includes pictures of two gay men kissing in a park, and a woman emerging topless from the sea.

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Arthur Rackham - illustration from Wagner's Ring: Brunnhilde

Illustrator Arthur Rackham produced an entire folio of beautiful illustrations to accompany Wagner's 'Ring.' This scene comes from the last scene of the final night of the four-night 'Ring Cycle,' in which Bruunnhilde leaps into the flames, and in that act she brings about the downfall of the Gods and a new world swept clean. Wonderful stuff.

TAGS: Music, Art

Off to Helengrad

I'm off to Helengrad early tomorrow to see 'Parsifal' and catch up with friends, so blogging may either be intermittent or non-existent until at least Monday. Try and cope without me.

"What's Parsifal?" I hear you ask, "and why is it on St Patrick's night?" To the second question I can only assume someone stuffed up, but a St Pad's Parsifal does give a good excuse to slip a few cans of Guiness into the auditorium.

To the first question: it's an opera by Wagner -- which means a long one -- described by Nietzsche as a “sell-out” to the Christian faith, by Tchaikovsky as a long, boring experience, and by Debussy as “the greatest monument in sound ever raised to the glory of music.” Of the all New Zealand cast featuring Donald McIntyre, Simon O'Neill and Margaret Medlyn, Bayreuth producer Keith Warner declared "you wouldn't expect to get a better cast in most opera houses in Europe."

So I'm looking forward to a great night or two.

If you want to know more (and to see the source of those quotes), this link has details of a talk on 'Parsifal' by the always illuminating Heath Lees tonight on Concert FM; this site has all the lietmotifs you need to know, and this site has almost everythelse a Parsifal-goer might need.

LINKS: Parsifal in Perspective - Heath Lees - Concert FM
Simon O'Neill's website
Parsifal - RichardWagner.Net
Parsifal - Derrick Everett's Monsalvat site

TAGS: Music, Wellington, Events

What academic freedom isn't

You may have heard about the case of the 16-year-old American high-school student who recorded his school teacher's rant comparing George W Bush to Hitler, which saw the teacher suspended and then reinstated after his lawyer claimed for him a 'First Amendment' right to what he calls 'free speech' and his 'academic freedom.'

Thomas Sowell points out that "there is much confusion over free speech and academic freedom" -- and ain't that the truth -- and the the teacher is mistaken on both points. On the first:
The teacher's lawyer talks about First Amendment rights to free speech but free speech has never meant speech free of consequences. Even aside from laws against libel or extortion, you can insult your boss or your spouse only at your own risk.
True enough. And on the second point:

Academic freedom is the freedom to do academic things -- teach chemistry or accounting the way you think chemistry or accounting should be taught. It is also freedom to engage in the political activities of other citizens -- on their own time, outside the classroom -- without being fired.

Nowhere else do people think that it is OK to engage in politics instead of doing the job for which they are being paid. When you hire a plumber to fix a leak, you don't want to find your home being flooded while he whiles away the hours talking about Congressional elections or foreign policy. It doesn't matter whether his political opinions are good, bad, or indifferent if he is being paid to do a different job.

Only among "educators" is there such confusion that merely exposing what they are doing behind the backs of parents and taxpayers is regarded as a violation of their rights.
Perfectly clear, and perfectly true. Academic freedom is not the freedom to rant about issues irrelevant to the subject at hand; it does not grant teachers the freedom "to use a captive audience to vent their politics when they are supposed to be teaching geography or math or other subjects."

LINK: Academic Freedom and classroom brainwashing - Thomas Sowell - Capitalism Magazine

TAGS: Education, Politics-US

Who do you look like?

Once again, DPF has come up with a time-waster: a face recognition site that allows you to upload a photo and find out which celebrities you and your friends look like. Oddly, with two photos of myself there was no overlap of names, indicating perhaps that the face recognititon software still needs some work. Anyway, here's what it came up with for me:

The good/interesting:
Vicente Fox (67%)
Patrick Stewart (62%)
Ariel Sharon (62%)
Pedro Almodovar (61%)
Mel Gibson (60%)

The very good:
Andre Breton (71%)
Kevin Spacey (62%)
Ricky Ponting (61%)

The 'You've Got to Be Kidding!':
Boris Trajkovski (68%)
Lyndon B. Johnson (66%)
John Travolta (64%)
Ben Frigging Affleck (62%)
Martin Fucking Sheen (61%)

I'm burning with jealousy that Rodney Hide got Michael Collins, and DPF got Hemingway.

LINK: Face recognition site (requires free registration) [Hat tip DPF]

TAGS: Geek stuff, Quizzes

Linking Slob

LibertyScott is excited. Slate has linked his piece castigating the late Slob Milosevic. If you think being linked on DPF's blog sends your stats skywards, he says, you should see what happens when you're quoted on Slate!

And he's got his first death threat too -- "a Chetnik wanting me to burn in hell because Milosevic saved his family." Looks like his blog is about to take off.

LINKS: Slobodan Milosevic - nationalist thug - LibertyScott
Milosevich's End - Torie Bosch - Slate
And out comes the fascist - LibertyScott

TAGS: Politics-World, Obituary

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Rebuilding Auckland's Tank Farm

Auckland's 'Tank Farm' on Wynyard Point is Auckland latest political football, and looks likely to be so for the next thirty or so years. As oil company leases expire there (on land co-owned in the main by Ports of Auckland Ltd, and on the margins by Viaduct Harbour Holdings Ltd, and Americas Cup Village Ltd) forces are gathering to re-develop the area. As always in New Zealand, there are forces opposed to development, forces opposed to competition, and forces opposed to anything beyond the bland and mediocre.

'When in doubt, plant a tree' seems to be all too common a theme. Demands for parks, for open space, to ban "shops, offices and apartments" -- and presumably profits -- from the area are just so much nonsense." The new development should be democratic, not just the for the elite," says ARC councillor Sandra Coney, making the point for most of those opposed to mostly everything that makes any sense. "The Tank Farm will become a playground for the rich with the poor emptying the bins," says Heart of the City's Alex Swney, summoning up working-class envy on behalf of Queen St retailers opposed to competition to the west. Swney it is who has set up the dripping wet WeOnlyGetOneChance.Com in an effort to mobilise forces against business competition (you've probably heard his sneering radio ads). What an idiot.

Many of the comments from most of the usual suspects ignore the reality of the the proposed (and much-needed) second harbour crossing, for which Wynyard Point is an obvious and already mooted candidate. And too many ignore the excitement a hard-edged urban landscape generates when done well.

For once in Auckland, on a site representing such an enormous opportunity, it would be good if the bland and the mediocre and the suburban were overlooked, and a real hard-edged, working, urban waterfront could result. Don't think Quay St East (in fact, avoid Quay St East altogether). Think downtown Manhattan and Battery Park, or downtown Sydney and the Rocks. Or even London's Docklands and Greenwich. Think things that haven't yet been seen in this funny little city.

Oddly, unexpected sense and a portion of good thoghts have been rolled out by Port's Design Team, whose concept (right and below) is simple but surprisingly strong despite some occasionally bland illustrations, a still somewhat suburban scale (particularly at the point's tip), and three grave errors: 1) not taking account of the second harbour crossing, 2) assuming there are enough people in Auckland to fill even more bars and restaurants, and 3) ignoring almost totally, it seems. the needs of the existing marine industry located in the area.

Personally, I was unhappy when the fishing boats and fishing industry were thrown out of the Viaduct (with Simunovich the solo exception). If the new developments send industry even further away I'll be very unhappy, and so will they. But despite that oversight, which can be remedied now, the Viaduct works. It's was the first time the urbanity of this great harbour city really met the water properly. And as the Herald's John Roughan argues (and I agree), it has lessons for development on Wynyard Point:

But the success of the Viaduct is not due simply to the human scale of the place. It owes at least as much to the way commercial activity is combined with public areas there. That is the formula to follow.

It does not necessarily mean more apartments, restaurants and bars but if there is a demand for them, let it happen. More likely the commercial activity would change as you proceed west from the Viaduct. The high life would give way to marine industries much as it does now.

Possibly the best thing the designers could do would be to find ways that the fish markets, boatyards and every sort of marine servicing depot could continue to operate there with more generous public access to the same waterfront.

I'm sure this would present more of a problem to planners than it would to people working or walking on the waterfront. Planners abhor chaos, but left alone people would quickly resolve so-called issues of conflicting use.

Quite right. One thing all parties seem to agree upon is that the area needs a landmark building -- an iconic building to do for Auckland's harbour what the Opera House does for Sydney's. Even Councillor Coney agrees, albeit rather wetly: "A number of people say this area needs an iconic building or structure - art galleries and museums have been mentioned. Whatever is chosen should meet a number of criteria - and be of interest to the city's diverse communities... The concept of an Arrival Museum could well fit the bill..." Good grief.

For mine, John Roughan sums it up well:

All week we've been reading of ideas for the redevelopment of the waterfront from the Viaduct to Westhaven, including the removal of the tank farm and using that commanding site for a building of Sydney Opera House significance.

I haven't heard a more exciting subject for a long time. Auckland could erect something there that would define the place, dominate the harbour and swell the hearts of its citizens forever. Sydney has done that so well that anything we do might look imitative, but give us time.

The iconic building is literally the last thing we should do. That is to say, we should do it, but not until somebody comes up with the idea that is so good, so right and natural for that location that we'll all wonder why we didn't think of it.

We'll know it when it happens ...

Maybe no other construction could match the tower for grandeur but that tank farm site will inspire something exceptional. But no matter how grand the design let's not consign it to a cultural purpose as Sydney did. Let's come up with something that will have commercial life. That's where people go.

As you can imagine I agree almost completely, except to say that I see both the last few paragraphs and that piece of land beside the Harbour Bridge as a challenge. ( "No other construction could match the tower for grandeur." You surely have to be kidding!) Landmark buildings are sadly not something Auckland has thick on the ground -- iconic and distinctively New Zealand tall buildings even less so. But on that, more soon.

In the meantime, tell Auckland City Council what you think about their proposed District Plan Change to make any of this possible, and tell Alex Swney's anti-development coalition to go to hell.

LINKS: Three days to have say on city-changing project - NZ Herald (with related links)
Tank Farm proposals sweet and sour for industries - NZ Herald
Western Reclamation - Design Concepts - Ports of Auckland
Wynyard Point - Auckland City Council
An alternative - WeOnlyGetOneChance.Com
We have time to get creative - Sandra Coney
Timely re-jig for harbour- John Roughan

Jostling contenders good argument for supreme arbiter - Brian Rudman

TAGS: Auckland, Architecture, Urban Design

Playing the music of compulsion

"New Zealand music achieves record airplay!" trumpets an excited group including the Herald, Little Steve Maharey, NZ on Air, and the fairies at the bottom of my garden.
Airplay of New Zealand music has doubled [to 21%] since March 2002 when the government and the Radio Broadcasters Association launched a Code of Practice for New Zealand music content, agreeing to a target of 20% of local music by the year 2006. "This is a fantastic result for the music industry, and it demonstrates what we've known all along – that New Zealanders want to tune into more of their own music," [a breathless] Steve Maharey said.
Isn't that great! Isn't that fantastic! Haven't they done well!? Well, no they haven't -- or at least, this 'result' leaves us in no position to know, since as Lindsay Mitchell notes the figure achieved is the direct result of compulsion. "Back in 2001 the radio industry was told to lift their quota of NZ product or else," she reminds us. Aunty Marian Hobbs told radio stations then she expected them to "comply voluntarily... or else there is always the big stick." So as Lindsay says, "the logic is very mangey. Because radio stations did what they were told under threat of complusion the argument has been twisted to, NZers must have wanted it after all."

Expecting logic from politicians is the only thing she's got wrong here. Expect to see the 'voluntary quota' lifted on the back of this -- or else. As someone once said, if its good then they don't have to force you.

LINKS: New Zealand music achieves record level of local airplay - NZ Herald
Do it or we will make you - Lindsay Mitchell

TAGS: New Zealand, Music, Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour

Undercutting reality in the name of science

A few of you have emailed me about the 'Philosophic Corruption of Physics' course some friends and I are running every second Saturday, asking (generally) how can philosophy dare 'diss' physics. Shouldn't the former precede the latter? Well, not exactly -- done properly, they both prove each other. But bad philosophy will soon infect the physics, as it has ever since the start of the twentieth-century.

Travis Norsen lays out the argument in a four-parter at the Objective Science site (although in a somewhat less entertaining fashion than our own course): The "post-modern philosophy of emptiness is the source of the superficiality found in so many areas of art and science today... Even the hard-nosed science of physics has not been immune to the influence of contemporary philosophy. In physics, this modern superficiality takes the form of mathematical formalism divorced from any reference to causal mechanisms, i.e., equations whose referents in the physical world are unknown and not sought."
...the problem with contemporary physics is not simply that we have equations without yet knowing the causal mechanisms behind them. That is the current state of affairs, but it is a normal, intermediate stage in the growth of knowledge. Rather, the problem is that physicists have abandoned the attempt to discover causal mechanisms. Such explanations of the equations are regarded as unimportant or impossible.

This attitude, which I call the Primacy of Mathematics, takes causal explanations to be either irrelevant to the progress of physics or inaccessible by the methods of physics. In either case, such explanations are no longer sought. This obviously stunts the growth of knowledge, since it makes physicists think they are finished understanding a given phenomenon when in fact they have only begun to describe it. Deep questions, the kind that lead to identification of underlying causes, simply no longer get asked...

What then is left of theoretical physics? Equations - along with the motto: "Calculate, calculate, calculate." Or in other words: "The equations are here; let's use them. What do they mean? Blank out."
When philosophy tells you that we can never know true reality -- that all we can know are so-called 'appearances' -- then its no wonder that mathematical formalism and appearances becomed more valued than are causality and identity. And its no wonder either that in fields from physics to politics to art to ethics that fundamental thinking and complex integrations are out. Read on here.

LINKS: Mathematics vs. matter: The philosophic roots of the rejection of physical causation in 20th century physics - Travis Norsen, Objective Science
Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update - Not PC
Quantum Aristotle - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Objectivism

Free drink

Tonight in Auckland we're spoiled for choice when it comes to free drinks. The Auckland Philharmonia's Happy Hour Concert at 6 tonight is itself free, and I'm reliably informed that a) it comes with one free complimentary cocktail, and b) its fully booked. And Newmarket's Cock and Bull pub has a free beer tasting tonight from 5-8pm -- that's a free beer tasting -- to launch their new seasonal beer on tap. [Hat tip Real Beer]

Spoiled for choice -- but that's life sometimes in the big city.

TAGS: Auckland, Beer & Elsewhere

So, not very evil at all then...

Here's a result that might surprise you [Hat tip DPF]:

You Are 54% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

TAGS: Quizzes

The Tall Building (continued): Glass Skyscrapers - Mies van der Rohe

Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project, Berlin, 1921 (left), and Study for a Glass Skyscraper, 1926 (right) - Mies van der Rohe.

Bold for their time, and known chiefly in teh form of these iconic stark charcoal, ink and pencil drawings (they were never built), these striking buildings would became the 'cutting edge' of US tall-building design some thirty years later, when as Tom Wolfe described it, "row upon Mies van der Rohe of glass skyscrapers" were built along the Chicago lakefront," all over Manhattan, and out across the cities of America.

Mies's intention in cladding the buildings completely in glass was to "preserve them in their most beautiful state." You may draw your own conclusions from the fact that neither this "beautiful state" nor these beautiful drawings includes people.

LINKS: Mies in Berlin - Museum of Modern Art
Plans and comments - La Defense

TAGS: Architecture

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Gay genes or not gay genes - it's nobody's business but their own

Here's another example today of how state control of everything from conception to cremation leads to public involvement in everyone's private affairs -- sometimes intensely private affairs -- and to 'public debate' about things that is nobody else's business but those involved.

Today's story in brief involves sperm donors, fertility clinics, the Human Wrongs Commissariat (AKA the Human Rights Commission) and claims of a 'gay gene': Once upon a time, not so long ago, a private company, Fertility Associates, began to offer a service to parents unable to father children on their own. Many parents were very, very happy and began to avail themselves of the service offered, and for a while all was good. But such work cannot be done without the state's stern and controlling eye being cast thereon.

And so it was. The Human Wrongs Commissariat soon took it upon themselves to force Fertility Associates to use sperm from gay men, which they had previously avoided due to what they perceived as the added HIV risk involved. And with that the floodgates of meddling have seemed to open. Following hard on those state heels now comes an academic revelling in the name of Assoc. Professor Sin who demands that "potential recipients of sperm from gay donors to be told that a 'gay gene' could be passed on to the child." ( Picture if you can gay sperm donors phoning Prof Sin with the worrying complaint, "Forgive me Sin, for I have fathered!")

Now, Uncle Tom Cobley and all want a say, from the Gay Association of Professionals to "genetic experts," to molecular biologists and hospital endicronologists rung by newspapers for a quote, to talkback callers and Ian Wishart and, inexorably, Brian Bloody Tamaki. "There is no proof of a 'gay gene'," says one. "Is too," says another. "Don't care anyway," says yet another, "just don't tell anyone." "Do too care," says one more, "we're polluting our gene pool." Expect to see all these people and more bothered by TV crews all day. Sheesh. Talk about a furore in a field that's none of their damn businesss anyway.

Time to pull back and reflect. Just whose business is any of this? Not yours and mine, that's for sure. Not the business of sundry experts or comments-persons. Not the business of Prof Sin or the Human Wrongs Commissariat or the Gay Association of Professionals. Why does everyone always expect a say in stuff that's just none of their damn business?! Why do you? Is that why we have a government of bloody stickybeaks -- because most of you like nothing better than to meddle in your neighbours' affairs?

This is none of your damn business! The only people whose business this is is Fertility Associates, the sperm donors they choose to use and who choose to accept their conditions, and those who choose to avail themselves of the treatment Fertility Associates offers. That's all. What sperm to use, whether or not to use sperm from gay men, and what to tell, and whether there is or isn't a 'gay gene' is the concern only of those involved. The sober reflection and the choice on the issue is theirs' to make, not yours, and you and I and sundry experts and axe-grinders should be told politely to butt right out.

And the moral of the story then? Don't let the state anywhere near your bedrooms, your test-tubes or your fallopian tubes.

LINKS: 'Gay gene' row over sperm donations - Dominion Post

TAGS: Science, Ethics, Health, Politics-NZ

Cue Card Libertarianism - Abortion

Abortion is frequently a matter of dispute among libertarians, mostly because of conflicting views on the status of the foetus. There is acceptance by both sides that if the foetus is a human being, then abortion is murder, a violation of the right to life, properly to be outlawed.

'Not PC' takes the Objectivist view that the foetus is not yet a human being, but a
part of a human being – the mother – who has rights over it. As Ayn Rand points out, rights can only be held by beings who are capable of reasoning and choosing -- by human beings. A foetus is not a human being; it is a piece of protoplasm, a potential human being but not yet an actual human being.

A mother has rights; an embryo does not. Those who would refuse her the ability to abort her foetus are claiming rights over her body, and are demanding the sacrifice of actual human beings to what is until birth merely a potential.

To be an actual rather than merely a potential human being is, among other things, to be physically separate -- which a foetus is not -- and to have a brain, which a foetus has not until approximately the third trimester. As Leonard Peikoff has argued, “That which lives within the body of another can claim no prerogatives against its host. Rights belong only to individuals, not to collectives or to parts of individuals.”

Thus we uphold the right to abort as part of the mother’s right to ownership of her own body. We do not, however, support state-funded abortion, since anything at all funded by compulsory-acquired money is a violation of the rights of the involuntary funders.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series as it develops can be found here.

LINKS: The sacrifice at the heart of anti-abortion opposition - Peter Cresswell
Abortion rights are pro-life - Leonard Peikoff
The 'Abortion is Pro-Life' website
Cue Card Libertarianism - Rights - Not PC

TAGS: Cue Card Libertarianism, Ethics, Politics, Religion, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights

Lindzen on climate alarmism

MIT's Richard Lindzen is one of the most well-known global warming 'skeptics.' Here is a recent Powerpoint presentation given by Lindzen "rebutting alarmist climate science." As Robert Bradley from PERC notes, "he explains, among other things, how each greenhouse gas emission has less of a climate effect than the one before -- a powerful scientific law that neuters the CO2 mitigation option as the years and decades progress."

Take a look. It only takes a few minutes to get the main arguments.

LINKS: IPCC Extract - Richard Lindzen [PDF] [Hat tip Owen McShane]
PERC Homepage - The Property Environment and Research Center

TAGS: Global Warming, Science, Politics-World

How are your shares in bird flu going?

So, how's that Bird Flu getting on, eh?

'Pretty well, thanks,' says Donald Rumsfeld after making a $5million killing from Tamiflu. Story here. Meanwhile, sightings of human-to-human transmission of bird flu remain at precisely zero. Thank goodness those politicians are looking after themselves us.

LINK: Donald Rumsfeld makes $5m killing on bird flu drug - Independent

TAGS: Science, Health, Politics-US

'Emigrants Crossing the Plains' - Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt - Emigrants Crossing the Plains, 1867


Monday, 13 March 2006

Voting closes today

Voting in NZ's Netguide Awards closes today at 5pm. If you'd like to vote for this blog as top NZ blog, now's your last chance.

Having said that, the best votes -- as the saying goes -- all come through the checkout. On that basis, the best votes cast for 'Not PC' in recent weeks have come through that PayPal Tip Box over there on the top right, for which I can only thank all of you who've helped buy me lunch, some long-sought-after books and things (see right), and -- this week -- you're helping me get to Wellington to see Wagner's 'Parsifal.'

To all who've contributed, thank you, thank you, thank you. :-)
The 2006 People's Choice NetGuide Web Awards
LINKS: Netguide Net Awards - Vote now!
Parsifal - NZ International Arts Festival

TAGS: Blog, Books, Music, New Zealand

The sacrifice at the heart of anti-abortion opposition

There is nothing like sacrifice to bring religionists together -- it is after all at the very heart of most world religions, and the reverence for sacrifice underpins all religionist ethics. Naturally enough then, it is also what underpins the religionists' opposition to abortion. Xavier at Kete Were observes a contradiction with anti-abortionists which he notes but can't explain:
... it is profoundly ironic that those creatures who normally occupy the 'less government meddling' part of the socio-political landscape are just so keen to make an exception in the instance of abortion law... There is a great espousal of an individual owning his or her life, and choices about that life, without 'big government meddling.'

Should, however, an individual choose to exercise personal responsibility, or choice, when it comes to owning her own reproductive life, it is entirely consistent and justified for these moralisers [say the moralisers] to advocate full and invasive state regulation into that person's life... The hypocrisy is breathtaking, but seems to slip out of these people's mouths without them appearing to even take one. The great neo-con/neo-lib chimera, a walking ideological contradiction, positively oozes hypocrisy. It would be funny if it didn't ruin lives.
It would be funny, but it's not a contradiction. The key is the reverence for sacrifice held by reigionsts of all stripes - "the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser value of a nonvalue." Note that it is sacrifice that the anti-abortionists demand from those they would stop from obtaining an abortion. Sacrifice of pleasure to astinence, sacrifice of personal ethics to the religionists' idea of duty, and -- when it comes right down to it -- sacrifice of the actual (real living people) to what is merely a potential (a foetus, not yet a human being). As Ayn Rand said on this point:
Never mind the vicous nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a 'right to life.' A piece of protoplasm has no rights -- and not life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the firt three months. To equate a potential with an actual is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former is unspeakable... Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, ie., the non-living, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives.
As Xavier says, "I don't believe that any man has the right to tell a woman, either by personal force or through legislation, what they can do with their bodies. In fact, another woman justifiably has no right to tell a woman what to do with their own body. I am not 'pro-choice'. I am 'pro-butt-the-hell-out-of-my-business'."

And so am I.

1: Can I suggest you head off to Sir Humphrey's and vote in their poll on abortion asking when a foetus acquires the right to life. The possible answers range from when the foetus is just protoplasm right through from when its brain is formed at the third trimester, and then to birth. I voted third trimester, ie., between six months and birth. Vote, and then join in with the comments. It seems that the basic error is given in the confusion over their title for the question, in other words the equivocation between a foetus and a child.

UPDATE 2: I figured since enough commenters seem to have missed the point, I'd link directly to "the best ten-minute argument" for legal abortion on the internet, philosopher Leonard Peikoff's explanation of why pro-abortion is not primarily "pro-choice"; but pro-life. [Requires Real Player.] The link comes courtesy of the 'Abortion is Pro-Life' page linked below.

The world wide web of fallacies, or: It doesn't logically follow, Ian - Kete Were
Abortion is prolife - Capitalism Magazine
When do you BELIEVE a foetus/child gains full rights to life - Sir Humphrey's

TAGS: Ethics, Religion, Objectivism, Politics

Greatest ever match in one-day cricket

It's being called the greatest one-day international in the history of the game. Australia score a massive, world-record score of 434 runs in their fifty overs -- 424 runs! The South African crowd expect the worst, the newspaper headlines are made up for the next day - 'South African Disappointement,' 'Tourists Score Big' etc. -- and then South Africa go out and hit 438 with one ball to spare!

Now that is top international sport. And just imagine how gutted you'd be if you were an Australian cricketer. :-)

LINKS: South Africa win the greatest match of all - CricInfo

TAGS: Sport, Heroes

Getting down with an Imam

There's nothing to compare with your basic get-up get-down, big-shout-going-out Muslim rave party. Check it out.

Altogether now: "Wave your hands in the air like you just don't care, bang your hands on your head like you wanna be dead..."

LINKS: Muslim Rave Party Sensation! - Google Video [Hat tip Clint Heine]
TAGS: Humour, Religion

Heard in the big city

As the line goes, in the big city there's a million stories. And with them a million opening lines. Overheard in Chicago is trying to catalogue them all. Sample:

At the Mexican Rally on Adams and Dearborn
(Hundreds of people waving Mexican flags)

Bike Messenger: "What's going on over there?"

Onlooker: "I think it's a lawn mower sale."

North & Clybourn Red Line Stop
Bum: "Can you help me?"

Guy: "No."

Bum: "You look Jewish."

Guy: "No, I'm Atheist actually."

Bum: "Oh, so that's why you won't help me."

In front of the Sears Tower

Homeless Man: "Please help the hungry."

(woman hands man a sandwich)

Homeless Man: "Thank you very much...wait, is this a ham sandwich? How do you know I'm not a practicing Jew?"

On the South Shore
Lady On Cell: "Hi sweetie, how was school?"(listening) "What do you mean you lost your pants?"

At the University of Chicago
Guy: "I realize you're an economist, but as a human being don't you have any morals?"

Purple Line
(Father with his daughter on the train)

Daughter: "When we get home can mama read me a book?"

Father: "Why can't I read you a book?"

Daughter: "You never read to me. Mommy says it's 'cause you're retarded."

LINKS: Overheard in Chicago - [Hat tip Spitting Lama]

TAGS: Humour

Sunday, 12 March 2006

'The Free Radical' - the 'Death to Islam!' issue

I didn't blog yesterday because I finally grabbed the chance to devour the new Free Radical - the 'Death to Islam!' issue.

It's the best yet.

Lindsay Perigo says 'Death to Islam'; Marcus Bachler investigates what Richard Dawkins has to say about religion, and why it's 'The Root of All Evil'; George Reisman has plenty to say about Peak Oil and cartoons; some bloke called Peter Cresswell writes abut leaky houses, Nathaniel Branden, and how to sell your soul; Tibor Machan explains why Ayn Rand is so great; some Danish cartoons are published, and an honest academic is found (at Waikato, no less!)

It really is the best issue yet. Now's the time to subscribe and pick up your own copy.

LINKS: Free Radical 70 - Table of Contents
Subscribe to the Free Radical print edition - SOLO store
Death to Islam! - Lindsay Perigo

TAGS: Libertarianism, Objectivism
The story of how Frank Lloyd Wright drew up America's finest Twentieth-Century house in the time it took the client to drive two hours to meet him is the stuff of legend. Edgar Tafel, the last remaining person left alive to re-tell the story tells all on-air to Franklin Toker -- author of Fallingwater Rising.

"Wright never liked to draw until he knew what he was going to draw," says Tafel. You can listen to his story here.

LINKS: Fallingwater Anniversary - Radio DUQ [Hat tip FLW Newsblog]
Fallingwater Page - PBS.Org
Fallingwater - Digital 3d model - Great Buildings.Com

TAGS: Architecture, History - Twentieth-Century

I'm worth more. How about you?

I've been appreciating as I've been appreciated. A few months back this blog was worth zip. Now however...

My blog is worth $44,598.66.
How much is your blog worth?

TAGS: Blog

This week at 'Not PC'

For those of you who disgracefully missed some of Not PC this week, here's a brief summary of the best of it. Feel free to use that little e-mail button at the bottom top pass it on to everyone you've ever met...
  1. Fallingwater: The story of how Frank Lloyd Wright drew up America's finest Twentieth-Century house in the time it took the client to drive two hours to meet him

    The story of how Frank Lloyd Wright drew up America's finest Twentieth-Century house in the time it took the client to drive two hours to meet him is the stuff of legend. Edgar Tafel
  2. God drinks Guinness

    Friday afternoon a week before St Patricks Day seems an ideal time to ponder a fairly convincing Ontological Proof of God provided by a skinful of Guinness, a pretty girl and a bright sun, courtesy of an old post at Manhattan Transfer [and a hat tip to St

  3. John Key - "More meddling please"

    Those of you have commented on John Key's speech to West Harbour Rotary in which he argues for the benefits of greater government meddling might be interested in yesterday's discussion of the speech with bFM's Simon Pound, now online.
  4. 'Australia's most important architect' dies

    One of Australia's most prolific architects has died. Harry Seidler (1923-2006) was an unabashed modernist responsible for many of Australia's well-known public buildings including Sydney's Australia Square and Grosvenor Place, and Brisbane's Riverside Bu

  5. Black holes existence questioned

    As if to demonstrate that we know far less about astro- and quantum physics than we think we do, New Scientist reports this week that the existence of black holes is under question...

  6. When partly true is untrue - More FM misreporting shows interview dangers

    More FM yesterday ran a story saying that the Libertarianz political party supported racism. More FM now accepts that this was incorrect. Libertarianz Deputy Julian Pistorius confirmed that his party does ~not~ support racism, but it does support people's

  7. Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update

    As I mentioned when I first suggested this, "we plan to integrate BBQ, beer-drinking, physics and rugby": What could be better, eh? Schrodinger's Fridge Cat? Strange particles? The interconnectedness of everything? Beer! In a series of taped lectures...

  8. 'Country House' - Mies van der Rohe, 1923

    A wonderfully free-flowing 'pinwheel' plan for this country house project by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1923. A plan that combines elements of Frank Lloyd Wright, De Stijl, Berlage and Malevich.
  9. TradeMe block a tipping point?

    It doesn't stop, does it. Hard on the heels of Carter's Whangamata Veto, the Communist Commerce Commission chair-thing Paula Rebstock says she wants to throw a spanner in Fairfax's plan to give TradeMe founder Sam Morgan a large cheque.

  10. Get Carter

    Chris Carter has done everyone a favour. He's made it clear even to the unwashed and unenlightened that meddling is in, that enterprise is out, that the separation of powers in this pathetic authoritarian backwater is non-existent, and that New Zealand op

  11. Rodney Hide. Legend.

    Herald: "Do you support widespread legalisation?" Mr Hide: "No."

  12. Baa Baa ~What~ Sheep?

    Nursery school bosses [in Oxfordshire, UK] ordered the words of the rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to be altered to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep. The change was made to avoid offending children after teachers examined the nursery's equal opportunities policy. Stuart

  13. Larkin Building - Frank Lloyd Wright

    Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building of 1905 was revolutionary. The first atrium office building -- indeed, the first atrium building of any type -- air-conditioned, fire-proof, a veritable 'cathedral of industry.'

  14. Breathing fire on Nanny's census

    The Wellington firebreather made short work of a stack of census forms tonight at the Botanic Gardens Soundshell, doing what he does best in front of a crowd of forty or so that included a group of scouts chanting "Burn, Census, Burn!"
  15. Meddling arsehole stops Whangamata project

    This is what a meddling arsehole looks like (left). Chris Carter, MP, has just stepped in to reject the application to build a $10 million marina in Whangamata after consent for the project had already been granted by the Environment Court. Carter knows best...

  16. Crimes against society

    ...discussing 'prisoner rehabilitation' and Rachaelle Namana over the last day or so, I've kept hearing the phrase "repaying their debt to society." Prisoners, people keep saying, need to to "repay their debt to society." What on earth are they talking about?

  17. The truth about cats and dogs and politics

    Liberals tend to like cats; conservatives tend to like dogs. Such is the result reported by the Washington Monthly...

  18. Oscars

    Didn't 'we' do well. Weta Workshops's Richard Taylor is now equal Oscar-wise with Clint Eastwood, Bob Hope, John Barry and Francis Ford Coppola as the winner of five Academy Awards. Says the Dom enthusiastically: "Wellywood and Weta have done it again, with King Kong grabbing

  19. 'Clash of civilisations' rubbished by Arab-American woman

    Wow! Dr. Wafa Sultan is a secular Arab-American psychologist, whose view of Islam can best be decribed as one of absolute contempt. On February 21 she confronted radical Islamist cleric Ibrahim Al-Khouli in a debate on 'The Clash of Civilizations,' not in

  20. Houses - when bigger is not necessarily better

    When someone buys a Mercedes Benz or Jaguar, they look for quality, comfort, and detail. Size has nothing to do with the appeal of these cars. If you wanted nothing but space, you could buy a truck. Why is it, then, that some people feel compelled to buy bigger when it comes to their house, even though bigger is not always better...

  21. Firebreathing over census at Wellington's sound shell tonight

    Meanwhile, Libertarianz has organised a protest at the Wellington Sound Shell, with a fire breather to burn census forms. The press release states: "Libertarianz leader, Bernard Darnton, announced the event today, saying that "the census is a blatant e

  22. National Farmer's Bank, Owatonna, Minnesota - Louis Sullivan

    In 1906 architect Louis Sullivan criticised the then-traditional bank with its classical ornament and layout in an article in The Craftsman -- read by musician-turned-banker Carl Bennett, Sullivan was challenged to "suggest how to obtain something better

  23. A republic. If you can keep it

    Democracy, as Bill Weddell used to say, is the counting of heads regardless of content. I talked the other day about the importance in a democracy of putting things beyond the vote, so that your life, liberty and your right to pursue your own happiness ca

  24. TradeMe changes hands for big money

    Good for Sam Morgan, the fomer owner of NZ's most popular website, TradeMe, the site he started just seven years ago that now accounts for sixty-percent of NZ's web traffic. He is "the former owner" because as you might have heard he's just sold it for th

  25. Where there's a census, let there be fire!

    Tomorrow night I shall be burning my census form. That is, I would be if I had one. Apparently I am amongst the third or so of central Aucklanders who haven't yet had a form delivered. How sad. Perhaps I'll need to download a form in order to burn it.
  26. Do the rich really make us all poorer?

    'The rich keep getting richer!' screams economist Paul Krugman. 'So what,' says George Reisman in his latest blog. Actually, they both say it far more learnedly than I just summarised, but what you got was the gist of it...
  27. Trees

    Four questions for you this morning: * Given that a man has been jailed last year for offending the state religion cutting down his own trees on his own property, and that yesterday a man was fined $100,000 after abasing himself before a room full of zealots...

Tags: Economics Education

Friday, 10 March 2006

God drinks Guinness

Friday afternoon a week before St Patricks Day seems an ideal time to ponder a fairly convincing Ontological Proof of God provided by a skinful of Guinness, a pretty girl and a bright sun, courtesy of an old post at Manhattan Transfer [and a hat tip to Stephen Hicks's archives]. This excerpt gives some of the flavour:

"This spot is good, the beer is wonderful and that girl who is wearing the Temporley ballerina skirt is amazing. I know we’re unlikely to find anything better around here. But we could imagine something better. And, look, our imagining better things presupposes an end, what the Greeks call telepathy.”

“You mean teleology,” I would have told him three or four pints earlier...

Read on here. As proofs of God go, this one has to be amongst the most convincing -- however it does come with the associated danger that the more convinced you are today, the less you'll remember about your convictions tomorrow.

And while we're talking Guinness, turns out it really does have something for everyone: it also provides proof of evolution -- at least it does if this Guinness ad is to be believed. [Hat tip Real Beer]

LINKS: How the Existence of God Is Ontologically Proved Via the Medium of Very Good Stout and a Pretty Girl on a Spring Day - Manhattan Transfer
Ontological Argument - Wikipedia
Good things come to those who wait - Guinness video ad

TAGS: Religion, Beer & Elsewhere

Celebrating with bubbles

The Herald's Liam Dann reports on where economist Gareth Morgan (father of TradeMe founder Sam, and a shareholder in his own right) was to be found 9:30 on Wednesday morning when "an inquiring journalist... foolishly tried to find him at work."
She eventually tracked him down in his spa-pool where he laughed his way through the interview. Frankly, who could blame him. If your son had just made you $47 million, where would you be?
The Herald's headline? Laughing all the way to the spa.

TAGS: New Zealand

John Key - "More meddling please"

Those of you have commented on John Key's speech to West Harbour Rotary in which he argues for the benefits of greater government meddling might be interested in yesterday's discussion of the speech with bFM's Simon Pound, now online.

LINK: Simon Pound and John Key - bFM Wire
John Key: Speech to West Harbour Rotary Club - Scoop

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

'Australia's most important architect' dies

One of Australia's most prolific architects has died. Harry Seidler (1923-2006) was an unabashed modernist responsible for many of Australia's well-known public buildings including Sydney's Australia Square and Grosvenor Place, and Brisbane's Riverside Building.

He was "Australia's most important architect," declares Philip Cox (who might himself be able to lay claim to that title) in a gracious obituary in The Australian. Glenn Murcutt, another who might be in the running, said Harry Seidler "brought modernism in architecture to large-scale commercial design."
Harry brought art to architecture... Whilst he wasn't everyone's cup of tea, for those in the profession that know Harry and know his work so well, he actually brought a level of architecture that very few architects have seen in this country.

Pictured here is Seidler's own 1966 house at Killara, described by Cox "as one of [Seidler's] greater achievements."

LINKS: A poet in concrete - The Australian
Tributes flow for Seidler - Sunday Times
Harry & Penelope Seidler House
Harry Seidler Associates tribute

TAGS: Architecture, Obituary

Black holes existence questioned

As if to demonstrate that we know far less about astro- and quantum physics than we think we do, New Scientist reports this week that the existence of black holes is under question by a Noble physicist and his colleague.
Dark energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology...

"People have been vaguely uncomfortable about ... problems [associated with the theory of black holes] for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says [physicist George] Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."
Quantum physics? Contradictions? I'm sure when historians do look back they'll be questioning them all, as scientists and philsophers should be doing now. Most 'contradictions' associated with QM seem to involve drawing too-extensive conclusions from too few observations, or forming conclusions that undercut the very scientific methodology and philosophical bases being used to make the observations.

I look forward to discussing this further tomorrow over a beer. And I also look forward to SF authors finding some new plot lines for their stories.

LINKS: Three cosmic enigmas, one audacious answer - New Scientist
Three cosmic enigmas, one answer - Press Release
Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update - Not PC
Cartoons by Nick Kim

Science, Philosophy

When partly true is untrue - 'More FM' misreporting shows interview dangers

How many times have you been involved with events that have been picked up by the media, only to find that you barely recognise the story that was eventually reported? The more you see incidents you're familar with being changed into stories you barely recognise, the more you realise that when it comes to current affairs it's important to read between the lines -- that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is unlikely to appear on the front pages of the popular press.

Being interviewed by the media can be just as frustrating, and the results can be even further from the truth. Consider for example the case of Julian Pistorius, who was interviewed by More FM about burning his census papers -- an interview that became more wide-ranging as it progressed. After he woke up the next day he was astonished to find that More FM were reporting that "racism in Northland is acceptable according to the Libertarianz Party," and that his own 'racism' was being denounced by no less than Dover Samuels on behalf of all "fair-minded" New Zealanders who "would turn their backs on that type of policy."

Fortunately, Julian managed to obtain an apology from the radio station which clarifies his position and that was broadcast this morning:
More FM yesterday ran a story saying that the Libertarianz political party supported racism. More FM now accepts that this was incorrect. Libertarianz Deputy Julian Pistorius confirmed that his party does ~not~ support racism, but it does support people's freedom to believe whatever nonsense they wish. More FM sincerely apologises for any ambiguities associated with Thursday's story.
The apology has satisfied Julian, who I understand will shortly be posting clips and transcripts on his blog of both interview and news report. They will make interesting browsing for students of journalism.

There is a reason witnesses in court are asked to provide the whole truth. Words taken out of context are a way of being economical with the truth -- like for example having a lowlife tell you that just because you think David Irving has the right to peddle his nonsense that you're a holocaust denier yourself. Such smears suggest that the accuser has been unable to find anything else with which to accuse you, so he has had to make up something to fling in your direction.

Partial reporting is not the whole truth. The whole truth gives the whole context, something the media have a responsibility to present. As long as they don't, it behooves those giving interviews to be cautious in what they say, something I'm sure Julian will be bearing in mind in future.

UPDATE: Commentary slightly revised, and new link added to media files and story at Julian Pistorius's blog.

LINKS: More FM - Northland
Journalism Ethics 101- Julian Pistorius

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Racism, Libz

Thursday, 9 March 2006

New Microsoft Search Engine

Microsoft have just released a new Search Engine with which they're hoping to challenge Google. Says Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of information services at MSN, the division that's working on Windows Live:
``A lot of people think, 'Hey, ... Didn't Google become the popular search engine? And don't they just do a great job? And there's no room for improvement.''' Mehdi said. Once people get a feel for Windows Live Search, Mehdi said, ``They're going to say, 'Holy cow, I had no idea that search could get this much better!'''
Try it out here. Naturally, the first thing to do is to check out your own name. :-)

LINKS: Microsoft launches Windows Live Internet search engine - SiliconValley.Com TAGS: Geek stuff, Blog

Can Ahmed Zaoui go home now?

Is there any reason Algerian political refugee Ahmed Zaoui can't go home now? Reuters reports that:
Algeria will complete the release this week under an amnesty of 2,629 Islamists jailed during civil strife that lasted more than a decade, the justice Minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The amnesty was apparently inspired by the successful South African amnesty process put in place at the end of the white-apartheid era, and has won praise from the president of the European Parliament, Josip Borrell. Speaking to the Algerian parliament, he called the plan "an important step for the North African country to restore social order." Says the BBC:

The amnesty also offers a pardon to militants on the run who surrender, as long as they are not responsible for massacres, rapes or bombings of public places... The amnesty is an attempt to heal Algeria's wounds after years of a brutal and bloody conflict believed to have claimed more than 150,000 lives
Amongst those released and pardoned is hardline nutcase and praiser of Iraqi insurgents Ali Belhadj, the deputy leader of Zaoui's political organisation the Islamic Salvation Front, which raises the question of why Zaoui can't now go home.

So why can't he? If he's no threat here and not in danger there, why can't he get off the taxpayers' tab? He may not want to go home, but perhaps one or two liberals might want to meet some of his bills and perhaps sponsor him to stay.

And, speaking of those sucking off the taxpayers' tit, how about Zaoui's lawyer Deborah Manning -- what does she say? Predictably, legal-aid lawyer Deborah Manning (recipient already of a mllion or so of taxpayers' money on Zaoui's behalf) says he can't go. 'He can't!' she says.
"There has been an amnesty given, but it's only to people who will go back to Algeria and confess to their crimes," Ms Manning said." Amnesty International and other groups in the United Nations have condemned the amnesty because it's giving impunity to the security services and stopping people from talking about the troubles in Algeria."
Condemned the amnesty? Well, Amnesty have "called the law's impunity measures a major setback for human rights in Algeria." But they haven't suggested there's any danger to those being granted an amnesty. And the amnesty applies "only to people who go back to Algeria"? Who's she kidding? According to the BBC story quoted above, the amnesty "offers a pardon to militants on the run who surrender, as long as they are not responsible for massacres, rapes or bombings of public places."

I assume that applies to Zaoui, so what's the problem Deborah?

LINKS: Algeria to free 2,629 Islamists under amnesty - Reuters
Algeria frees Islamic militants - BBC News
Zaoui should return home, says NZ First - NZ Herald
Algeria: New Amnesty Law Will Ensure Atrocities Go Unpunished - Ammesty International

TAGS: Politics-World, Politics-NZ

Sobering Transmission Gully observations

LibertyScott has been following the Transmission Gully process for some time as part of his professional duties, and he's been blogging it regularly. He suggests this morning that those celebrating the decision by the Western corridors Hearing Committee need to "sober up" and consider:
  1. This is not a final decision, simply a "recommendation" - not a 'go-ahead' for the project, just a go-ahead to go to the next committee.
  2. At around $1 billion, "it still remains unaffordable" - "the money for it simply does not exist." As Kerry Prendergast points out, there is at least half-a-billion dollars missing to pay fo rit.
  3. If it does go ahead, it will consume moneys needed for more beneficial projects.
  4. Tolling the roadway would not even pay for the cost of tolling it.
  5. Lots of other stuff.
Read his piece if Transmission Gully is gettgin you excited. (And reflect, perhaps, that for all those claims we've recently heard about how the census is needed for 'planning,' this is just another example of how long government projects take - by the time they're anywhere near completion, the world is half-a-century on.)

LINKS: Transmission Gully proposed by Hearings Committee - LibertyScott

TAGS: Wellington, Politics-NZ